Humboldt’s Dave Orr is back from a recent winter trip, but it’s not your typical wintertime excursion.
Orr, a teacher and coach at Humboldt High School, returned to Iowa after a whirlwind, nine-day trip to Chile and Antarctica, where he ran two marathons within 24 hours under some unique and yet challenging conditions.
Orr, who returned to Humboldt on Mar. 2 after departing on Feb. 22, called it “an experience of a lifetime.”
“This is something I’ve been wanting to do for about eight years now. I guess you could say it’s an experience of a lifetime,” Orr said.
Orr was accompanied by a college friend who lives in Polk City. The pair were among 65 runners and five tour officials who made the trip.
After departing Des Moines on Feb. 22, the flight down south included a stop in Dallas, then a direct flight to Santiago, Chile. From there, a flight to Punta Arenas, the southern tip of South America.
“Antarctica is mostly a sheet of one-mile thick ice. We were on the two percent of Antarctica that is mostly land,” Orr said.
The race at Chile was run under ideal conditions for this native Midwesterner with temperatures topping out in the 60s and not much wind.
“The weather in Chile was fantastic. We were in a city that is considered one of the windiest cities on the planet. They typically have 30 to 50 mile-per-hour winds. Above that is not unforeseen,” Orr said. “We happened to catch one of those rare days where there wasn’t much wind.”
Meanwhile at Antarctica, the weather when the race began was around 28 degrees with a high of 32. The conditions became windy when the sun rose.
While the running course was at times rough, rocky and slippery, the majestic beauty of the land and nearby ocean provided breathtaking visual images for Orr and his contingent.
“It’s hard for me to describe the course and the race itself. It was the most physically challenging thing I’ve ever done by far. If not, it was by far more mentally and emotionally challenging. That made it even more rewarding of an experience and something I’m glad I took the risk on,” Orr said.
“The topography was rough and more diverse than I expected. It was very, very hilly. The surface we ran on was rocky and muddy at times. It was constantly changing,” Orr said. “We started at 5 a.m. and the sun was coming up. Things were frozen but began to melt as the race went on. The changing conditions made it challenging and yet interesting.”
“Some of the hills had moss on them. There were lots of little ponds and glaciers. You were surrounded by ocean so sometimes you would be right at sea level,” Orr said. “Other times you would have different views with the rough yet majestic terrain. It was different than I expected. A little bit surreal.”
“The course conditions were variable. At times it was rocky and tough to get good footing. It was hard to establish a constant pace because of the changing and challenging conditions,” Orr said. “It was grueling in those terms. But again, the scenery was so majestic that it took those things away. You kind of forgot the pain you were in.”
The soft-spoken Orr may not come across as the adventurous type, but his list of running accomplishments show someone not afraid to take on a challenge and attempt some life-altering changes for the better.
“I started running marathons in 2002. My first one was up at Duluth. I had been running some before that. Like most people, I got into running to make more healthy lifestyle choices,” Orr said. “Lose weight and be more fit. But I’ve really become addicted to the whole aspect of marathons and the physical and mental challenges that go along with that.”
Orr, a science teacher at HHS, is married to Allison. They have two children, Quinton and Joslyn.
Orr says his wife’s support and understanding made his commitment possible.
“I am extremely lucky to have a wife who is so supportive. She went through a lot to allow me to accomplish this,” Orr said. “She had to run kids all over and help with homework while I ran and she did it without ever complaining. None of this would have ever happened if I didn’t have a wife to support and encourage me like Allison did. She is a fine runner herself and I look forward to doing more adventures together.”
“My family goes to several running events a year together. My wife runs half marathons. My son is a strong runner and my daughter has not caught the running bug yet,” Orr said.
“I’m really lucky how things went into place. It could have been a thing where I was doing this and making it hard for everybody around me. Instead, it was a supportive approach,” Orr said. “I’m lucky I’m in that position.”
See complete story in the Humboldt Independent Newspaper. Subscribe for access to both print and electronic issues.